Los Angeles -- When the dreams of a city are lost dreams what is there left? This is the dilemma that many of today's young Syrian artists are faced with. Though the conflict that rages in Syria is at the heart of an age old feud between modernity and antiquity or in this instance religious intolerance versus secular tolerance. Mohamad Malas has weaved a searing gut wrenching look at a generation soon to disappear into the flames of a conflict that is on the brink of turning from a civil political war into a religious genocidal slaughter.
I must admit destiny or fate has played a role in my life. In my youth I met a beautiful Syrian actress who captivated me by her sensitive personality while working in Washington DC. Her name was Yasmine Khlat and she was instrumental in connecting me to the officials of The Carthage Film Festival in Tunis where I screened a film I worked on called "Report From Beirut: Summer of 82" that documented the cities siege by the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) during their successful operation that ejected the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) from Lebanon.
Little did I know her connection with Mohamad Malas. Although she did mention her involvement in the film. I would later learn how involved she was when I landed in Tunis and saw the marquee of the film "Dreams of The City" emblazoned on street banners with Yasmine billed as the star.
I screened the film at the fest and was not only impressed with her performance but also with the directorial skill of the film's director. Unlike his contemporaries in the Arab world, he was part of a new breed of Arab filmmakers. Less concerned with preaching the general line with the scathing hyperbole of the prevailing political diatribe and more concerned in just telling the story from a character point of view instead of purely from an overarching simplistic plot driven story line.
Well a few days ago I came across this urban drama that captures the horror and despair of a country on a crash dive into the abyss of the unknown. Mohamad Malas' 2013 critically acclaimed feature.
Here then is the trailer of "Ladder To Damascus" with a synopsis from TIFF.
Mohamad Malas, recognized widely as Syrian cinema's first auteur, resurrects the ghosts of his country's thirty-year-old dictatorship with this searing drama, shot in Damascus under a shroud of secrecy and at great risk after the outbreak of the 2011 insurgency.
Shot in Damascus months after the outbreak of the 2011 insurgency, under a shroud of secrecy and at great risk to the crew, Ladder to Damascus is a searing drama that weaves fiction and documentary with elements of the fantastical. In a century-old home in the centre of the city, twelve young Syrians from across the country rent rooms, having moved to the capital in pursuit of studies or professional ambition after the insurgency broke out in the countryside. Huddled within the confines of the elegant house as the uprising gradually erupts in the city, they can no longer ignore the calls for freedom. Conceived as a huis clos, Ladder to Damascus is a captivating window into the psyche of ordinary Syrians grappling with a historic upheaval.
A veteran of Syrian cinema and one of the most accomplished Arab graduates of Moscow's VGIK film school, Mohamad Malas resurrects the ghosts of the chilling legacy of his country's thirty-year-old dictatorship as vividly as the clamouring in the streets. Gorgeously filmed by Joude Gorani and magnificently edited by Ayhan Ergursel, the film confronts the question of cinema's role in times of turmoil, employing its own unique visual language. It also draws, sparingly, on allegory — in image and dialogue — to lattice the complex existential questions that hound both its characters and its author.
Beginning with an homage to the late Omar Amiralay, a fearless Syrian dissident and documentary filmmaker, Ladder to Damascus concludes that emancipation can only spring from love, and revolution from desire. A majestic feat.
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